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Commentary On Joel Amos Obadiah by Jean Calvin

Joel 3:21

21. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the Lord dwelleth in Zion.

21. Et mundabo sanguinem corum, non mundavi: et Jehova habitans in Sion.

The beginning of the verse is in various ways explained. Some make a stop after cleanse thus, |I will cleanse, yet their blood I will not cleanse;| as though God had said, that he would forgive heathen nations all their other wrongs, but could not forgive them the great cruelty they had exercised against his elect. So the sense would be, |Avarice may be borne, I could pass by robberies; but, since they slew my people, I am in this case wholly unforgiving.| Hence, according to this view, God shows how precious to him is the life of his saints, inasmuch as he says, that he will not be pacified towards those ungodly men who have shed innocent blood. But this sense seems rather too forced. Others render thus, |Their blood will I cleanse, and will not cleanse,| that is, |I will cleanse the Jews from their defilements, but I will not use extreme severity;| as he says also in Isaiah 48, I will not refine thee as gold or silver, for thou wouldest turn all into dross.' They hence think that God promises here such a cleansing of the Church, as that he would not use extreme rigor, but moderate his cleansing, as it is needful with regard to our defilements, of which we are all so full.

But this sense seems to me more simple, -- that God would cleanse the blood which he had not cleansed; as though he said, |I have not hitherto cleansed the pollutions of my people; they are then become, as it were, putrid in their sins; but now I will begin to purify all their wickedness, that they may shine pure before me.| There is a relative understood as is often the case in Hebrew. But nqh neke is taken in Jeremiah 30:11, in another sense, that God will exterminate his Church: but we cannot in this place elicit any other meaning than that God will cleanse his Church from pollutions; for the Prophet, no doubt, means the defilements of which the people were full. They will not, then, be able to enjoy the favor of God while lying in their filth. Now God, in promising to be a Redeemer, comes to the very fountain and the first thing, -- that he will wash away their filth; for how could God be the Redeemer of the people, except he blotted out their sins? For as long as he imputes sins to us, he must necessarily be angry with us, we must be necessarily altogether alienated from him and deprived of his blessing. He then does not say in vain that he will be a purifier; for when pollutions are cleansed, there follows another thing, which we have already noticed as to this, future redemption, and with this --

He at last concludes and says And Jehovah shall dwell in Zion. The Prophet recalls again the attention of the people to the covenant; as though he said, |God has willingly and bountifully promised all that has been mentioned, not because the people have deserved this, but because God has deigned long ago to adopt the children of Abraham, and has chosen mount Zion as his habitation.| He shows then this to be the reason why God was now inclined to mercy, and would save a people, who had a hundred times destroyed themselves by their sins.

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